Police arrest 37 year-old man in connection with pregnant 11 year-old

Police have confirmed that a 37 year-old male is being held in custody in connection to an investigation into the case of an 11 year-old girl who gave birth to a premature baby on Thursday, November 1.

The confirmation was made as high-profile politicians, public figures and NGOs have launched a wider debate on child abuse and responsibility towards the welfare of young people in the Maldives.

Both government-aligned and opposition figures have called for authorities to properly investigate the pregnancy and alleged abuse of the girl, a stance backed by the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which has labelled the matter a “very serious” and “dirty crime”.

The 11 year-old girl, who cannot be identified due to her age, gave birth to her child two months prematurely on Thursday.

Her child later died early morning on Friday (November 2), after being taken to Feydhoo regional hospital in Seenu Atoll for further treatment, with medical officials telling local media at the time that the girl had said she had been the victim of multiple cases of child abuse.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that a 37-year old male was presently being held in custody in relation to the case, but could not confirm if the 11-year old girl herself was presently under observation by authorities or was back with her family.

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told Minivan News he was aware of the ongoing investigations into the matter, which he labelled “a very big crime,” adding that the young girl should not herself take any blame or punishment.

“Personally I can’t say any word to punish a small girl in grade six. This may be a rape or sexual abuse case,” he said.

“We must find the man who did this dirty crime and he must be punished. I believe this to be a very serious case and have this morning talked with the Human Right’s Minster and Attorney General regarding the [issue].”

The Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights is presently is mandated to deal with the matter.

Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed referred Minivan News to Dr Aishath Rameela, State Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights.

Dr Rameela was not responding to calls at time of press.

Twitter debate

Debate over the case has raged on social media over the last few days.  Political figures including MP Rozaina Adam of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) stressed via Twitter that investigations conducted by both the police and the Maldives Gender Ministry of were proceeding at “top speed”.

Rozaina, who labelled the case as both “unacceptable” and “shocking”, demanded on social media that police make the case a high priority and find the person responsible for fathering the child.

“An 11 year-old doesn’t get pregnant by herself! This is child abuse we are talking about here n authorities need  to find out who is responsible,” she wrote on the social media service.

Rozaina was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Meanwhile, Ali Rameez, a famous singer who gave up music and now heads the Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, tweeted on Friday: “All you people who claim to be Muslims! In Allah’s Shariah [law], a child grows up when he or she reaches puberty. Not when they turn 16, 18, 25.”

Rameez, who also hosts a religious program on private radio station SunFM, tweeted earlier that he was “not aware that children could get pregnant.”

The comments were criticised by some social media users including former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, who tweeted: “Where are the children’s right groups… Where is HRCM.. Horrified with the preaching of people like Ali Rameez.”

Outside of the political sphere, local NGO, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) yesterday issued a statement calling on the government, civil society organisations and the general public to step up efforts to combat child abuse in society.

“ARC strongly condemns the recent case of child abuse resulting in the pregnancy of an 11 year-old child. ARC calls upon the authorities to utilise all necessary resources to ensure the safety and protection of the child,” the statement read It is an obligation for us as responsible citizens to protect our children, and it is the Maldivian government’s obligation as a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that all international commitments to protect the rights of all children are adhered to fully.”

ARC also highlighted the importance of respecting the child’s privacy, while urging parliament, the government and the nation’s judiciary to take “action urgently” over the case.

“We also call on the relevant state institutions, civil society and other international entities in the country to take all precautionary measures to prevent violations of children’s rights, protect their safety and well-being, and to maximize their efforts to address comprehensively the issue of the violations of children’s rights in the Maldives,” the statement added.


Mother of former Environment Minister sues police for damage to house during Nasheed’s arrest

Mother of former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, Rasheedha Mohamed, has sued police for damage caused to her house by police officers during the raid to arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Speaking to Minivan News, Aslam confirmed his mother had filed a case at the Fares-Mathoda Magistrate Court, alleging police had disrespected the privacy of their house as guaranteed to all citizens in the constitution.

‘’It is not about the amount of money to compensate for the damage, it has all got to do with the procedure they applied to arrest Nasheed,’’ Aslam said.

‘’I was on the doorstep when the police officers arrived. They showed me the warrant issued by the court to arrest Nasheed and I told them to wait there while I passed the message to him,’’ Aslam explained.

‘’But they followed me inside and started searching all over, breaking doors and calling Nasheed to come out from his room,’’ Aslam said. ‘’It would have been right for them to use excessive force if they had let me forward the message to Nasheed and Nasheed had refused to come out.’’

Aslam said had Nasheed refused to come out, police could have asked his mother’s permission to enter the house to arrest a person as ordered to do so by the court.

He also said that police asked Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Nazim to open the toilet door while he was inside.

‘’Nazim told the officers that it was him but officers demanded to open the door and he did open the door. Then a while later they broke the toilet door while he was inside,’’ he said.

Following allegations made against police after the arrest of Nasheed, police issued a statement that day claiming that police officers followed professional standards in arresting Nasheed.

In the statement, police said they initially requested Nasheed hand himself over to the police. According to police, officers broke down the door of the room Nasheed was in and detained him after he failed to respond to their initial commands. The statement claimed that this is the general course of action used by police in similar situations.

The police denied that any officers used offensive language or that any physical or that psychological trauma was caused to anyone during the arrest.


MDP government’s intelligence learned of coup planning, claims report

Intelligence sources of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government had learned of the then-opposition’s plan to topple the government by soliciting “about 500 police officers” to protest in the Republic Square, according to an investigative report into the circumstances that led to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation “under duress” on February 7.

The report (Dhivehi), co-authored by former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam and National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal, focuses on the former government’s intelligence information on planning for the alleged “coup d’etat” and “unlawful and criminal activities” of police and army officers in the events leading up to Nasheed’s resignation.

All the information included in the report came from “primary sources”, the authors insisted, including senior government officials and political figures as well as police and army officers. Other sources included media reports, eyewitness testimonies and publicly available video footage.

Speaking to Minivan News today, President’s Office Spokesperson said that the MDP’s decision to release a report that included the names of police and MNDF officers it accused of being involved in the alleged coup was an “act of terrorism”.

“Planning the coup”

The report alleged that in September 2011 council members of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) met with a retired Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) warrant officer (grade one), a retired brigadier general and a retired deputy police commissioner at the apartment of PPM council member Ahmed ‘Mars’ Saleem to discuss ways to topple the government.

At the meeting, the report stated, the retired warrant officer proposed that “the only way to change President Nasheed’s government” was for “about 500 police officers to come out and protest at the Republic Square”.

“During these discussions, when the retired deputy police commissioner gave assurances that it could be done, PPM interim deputy leader Umar Naseer raised doubts [about the possibility],” the report claimed.

However, following extensive discussions, “it was decided that work would begin on creating an atmosphere for [a police-led protest at Republic square].”

The report further claimed that the “December 23 coalition” of eight political parties and affiliated NGOs – which staged a mega-protest to “Defend Islam” from the alleged “securalisation agenda” of President Nasheed – was formed as a result of “a lengthy discussion” at the Adhaalath Party office between a prominent religious scholar and the aforementioned warrant officer.

The ‘mega-protest’ was meanwhile primarily funded by Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, the report claimed.

While Umar Naseer attempted to march the December 23 demonstrators to overthrow the government, the report claimed, the plan was thwarted after some coalition members opposed the notion.

“When it could not be done that day, the organisers of the gathering on December 23 decided to hold a second mass demonstration in the name of ‘a symposium’ on February 24 to bring President Nasheed’s rule to an end through direct action,” the report stated.

The controversial detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed by the military on 16 January provided the opposition “a wide opportunity to redouble efforts to achieve the desired outcome of the mass ‘symposium’ planned for February 24.”


Meanwhile, the report alleged, efforts by the opposition to identify police and army officers to join the protest was underway “at a high speed” with ex-colonel Mohamed Nazim and ex-deputy commissioner Abdulla Riyaz entrusted with the task.

At the beginning of February 2012, the report revealed, government intelligence had learned of ties formed between elements of the police and military with the opposition.

The report alleged that “among those who pledged allegiance to [the opposition] were Brigadier General Ahmed Shiyam, Colonel Mohamed Nasheed, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Raouf and Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz.”

Moreover, intelligence learned that Brigadier General Ahmed Shiyam – presently the Chief of Defence Forces – held secret meetings with opposition figures, the report claimed.

Intelligence officers also reported that ex-colonel Nazim contacted senior military officers and middle-ranking officers at the time, “as a result of which information was received that some officers of the military’s marine corp pledged allegiance to him.”

Intelligence further learned that the officers in question were engaged in “inciting hatred” for President Nasheed among military personnel, eroding respect for the then-commander-in-chief and seeking additional recruits to their cause.

“Star Force” resurrected

The MDP’s report alleged that police officers involved in the planning for the coup were Assistant Commissioner Hussain Waheed, Chief Superintendent Abdulla Fairoosh, Chief Superintendent Hassan Habeeb, Chief Superintendent Ahmed Saudhy, Chief Inspector Abdulla Mannan Yousuf, Inspector Mohamed Dhaoud, Superintendent Ahmed Mohamed, Superintendent Mohamed Jamsheed, Sub-Inspector Azim Waheed and Special Operations (S.O) Inspector Shameem.

S.O Officers in particular were openly displaying contempt for President Nasheed and hatred of the government, the report claimed. The police S.O, formerly known as the “Star Force”, was created during President Gayoom’s reign to quell public demonstrations by the nascent MDP during the post-2003 reform movement.

The report revealed that disciplinary action was taken against an S.O officer found to have boasted to PPM MP Ahmed Mahlouf on 23 January about brutalising MDP protesters near MMA, vowing to “destroy MDP.”

Mahlouf confirmed the incident the following night at the protest, the report noted.

Disciplinary action was also taken against an officer who revealed riot police strength in a text message to Umar Naseer.

Moreover, intelligence learned that S.O officers were informing the opposition of “all of President Nasheed’s movements.”

The report also alleged that the S.O made no attempt to break up disruptive protests led by the opposition for 22 consecutive nights, which saw the central bank’s windows smashed, a minister’s house vandalised, trees uprooted and a police officer set on fire.

The report further noted remarks by Umar Naseer during the 22 nights of protest asking for 2,000 volunteers to storm army barracks with 50 ladders, at which point “the people inside will be with us.”

“From today onward, we will turn this protest into one that achieves results,” Umar had said. “We know how people overthrow governments. Everything needed to topple the government of this country is now complete.”

The report also referred to a meeting after midnight on 31 January between the then-vice president and representatives of the December 23 coalition, after which the opposition pledged allegiance to Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan and called on the security forces not to obey commands of President Nasheed.

Among the assurances sought by the opposition was for Dr Waheed to not resign “despite any pressure” and lead a national unity government until 2013.


MDP launches own investigation into transfer of power

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has launched an investigation into the February 7 transfer of power, claiming President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s inquiry into the change of government is not independent.

President Waheed instituted a three member Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) following ousted President Mohamed Nasheed’s allegation that he was deposed in a coup d’état orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by several resort interests and carried out by mutinous police and military units.

However, the Commonwealth has challenged the CNI’s independence, and on April 16 warned of “further and stronger measures” against the Maldives should the country fail to review the composition and mandate of the commission within four weeks.

Speaking to the press on Monday, former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said the MDP had decided to initiate its own inquiry because “we do not trust the current administration’s inquiry to be independent.”

The MDP investigation aims to establish the truth, and learn lessons from the change of government to ensure a coup d’état does not take place in the Maldives in the future, said Aslam.

MP Mariya Didi said the MDP will seek justice based on the evidence they obtain.

“When the investigation is complete we will decide whether to file with a Maldivian court or if necessary with an international court,” she said.

However, Aslam said the MDP did not trust the Maldivian courts to deliver justice.

“It is very clear to us what will happen if we conduct an investigation and file the findings with a Maldivian court. We do not trust the courts to deliver justice on any investigation, whether it is carried out by us or another party,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the ordinary citizen knows what transpired on that day. A day will come when this case will be tried in a court of law and we will obtain justice,” he added.

Aslam said the party has been collecting statements from senior politicians, ordinary citizens, and members of the police and military, and appealed to the citizens “who saw and heard what happened to share information with us.”

Statements obtained so far suggest “this did not happen by chance,” Aslam said. “This was planned in advance, with the participation of senior political figures in the country. Moreover, the two institutions that Maldivians depended on for security have failed.”

Mariya said President Nasheed had requested the investigation and had pledged to cooperate with other ongoing investigations.

“He has given a statement to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and will very soon submit a statement to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) on the actions of the police on February 8. Police action on the day violated the respect that must be given to a former president,” Mariya said.

Videos from an MDP demonstration on February 8 show police tear gassing and beating unarmed civilians in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) building, and show police in riot gear verbally abusing Nasheed as they dragged him out of a shop.

The HRCM and the PIC have previously told they will respectively investigate human rights violations and police actions before and after February 7, but said the commissions do not have the mandate to look into the circumstances surrounding the change of government.

The MDP will seek international assistance in its investigation, Aslam said.


MDP agrees conditional participation in “interim government”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has agreed to join an interim government that would pave the way for an early presidential election on the condition that five senior officials of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s government are removed from their posts.

At a press conference yesterday, Male’ City Councillor ‘Sarangu’ Adam Manik read out a statement from an advisory sub-committee of MDP’s national council outlining the party’s position, which holds that “a government installed in a coup d’etat does not have the constitutional authority to form a national unity government.”

The former ruling party’s national council had passed a resolution on February 8 declaring that it would not recognise the “illegal government” of Dr Waheed.

“As President Mohamed Nasheed always places public interest first, his advice was, given that this problem can only be resolved with the participation of the people, to call for an early election,” Manik explained.

In response to Dr Waheed’s invitation to join a national unity government, Manik said the party considered the formation of such a government unlawful.

“However as the party also believes that the national interest would not be upheld without the participation of the largest political party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, and because this party has also worked in the interests of and for the benefit of the people, the party has informed Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik that we are ready to participate with conditions in an interim mechanism to be formed to prepare for an early election,” he stated.

The MDP’s condition is for Dr Waheed to dismiss Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz and Chief of Defence Forces Ahmed Shiyam.

The party contends that the individuals in question were actively involved in the coup d’etat. On the morning of February 7, following the police mutiny, Nazim, Riyaz and Fayaz entered the MNDF headquarters to negotiate with President Nasheed and announced to the protesters that they had demanded Nasheed’s “unconditional resignation” by 1.30pm.

Meanwhile, MDP’s national council convened for an emergency meeting this afternoon and decided to hold a primary to choose its presidential candidate as required under party regulations.


Two MNDF, two police officers resign to join MDP protest

Two officers each from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Maldives Police Service joined the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstration last night after resigning in protest of the security forces’ role in the change of government on February 7.

The four ex-officers – Staff Sergeant Shafraz Naeem and Fire and Rescue Lance Corporal Mohamed Imram from MNDF, along with Staff Sergeants Imran Abdulla and Mohamed Niyaz from the police – were introduced to the cheering crowd shortly after midnight by former Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam as “honourable and patriotic sons of the Maldives.”

The four officers were “not alone” in their decision, said Aslam, insisting that a number of officers in the police and army were “of independent thought.”

Speaking after Aslam, former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal urged protesters to stop harassing and taunting security personnel with chants of’ “Money, money, yes sir!” as “only a few officers” participated in the police mutiny demanding President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation in the early hours of February 7.

Former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef meanwhile suggested changing the slogan to “Money, money, no sir!” in recognition of the officers who resigned.

President Nasheed and members of his cabinet took to the stage to shake the ex-officers’ hands while the crowd saluted them.

The army has since issued a statement contending the two officers had not resigned and were absent without leave (AWOL). According to MNDF, the pair also had a history of disciplinary problems and administrative action had been taken against them.

Day three

Meanwhile the MDP’s mass protest demanding a date for an early presidential election entered its third consecutive day today, with more boatloads of supporters continuing to arrive in Male’.

Protesters from Thaa Madifushi swam ashore after 4:00pm today claiming they were not allowed to dock at the harbour while a large vessel from Haa Dhaal Kulhudufushi arrived this morning.

Addressing the gathering after midnight on the first day, President Nasheed urged supporters to “not do anything apart from expressing merriment.”

A number of protesters spent the night at the tsunami memorial area while the protest resumed the next day with a carnival atmosphere. Volunteers cooked rice with sausages while a children’s evening was arranged in the late afternoon.

On the second night, bodu beru (traditional Maldivian music) groups and local musicians entertained the crowd with improvised songs taunting the police. Among the performers were Sameeu, Fasy, Shiuz and musicians associated with the Dinba family.

Police have meanwhile told local media that the institution would not attempt to obstruct the gathering as long as it remained peaceful.

Speaking for a few minutes after 5pm today, President Nasheed said what was at stake was the freedom of future generations.

“One of the main reasons we can’t stay home indifferent is because we are very much assured in our hearts that there would be nothing more important for us to do than this after giving up our future,” he said.


Minister Aslam appointed acting head of Finance Ministry

Housing and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam has been appointed as acting head of the Finance Ministry.

The appointment was made in the wake of Ahmed Inaz’s resignation from the post on December 29, following a covert meeting with Mulaku MP Abdulla Yamin of opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on December 27.

The meeting, held in a car on a poorly lit side of Male’, was discovered by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists who demanded Inaz’s resignation.

State Finance Minister Ahmed Naseer also resigned on December 29, for undisclosed reasons.


Committee to probe 2003 Maafushi Jail shooting

A second investigation of the 2003 Maafushi Jail shooting has been launched by a special committee appointed by President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet.

The committee includes Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam, Attorney General (AG) Abdulla Muiz and Defence Minister Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaan, and will investigate the incident that took place on September 20, 2003 – a watershed moment following the death in custody of Evan Naseem that led to street riots, the declaration of a state of emergency, and ultimately, the introduction of multi-party democracy and the eventual ousting of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

An investigation was previously conducted by a special commission under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The censored results were published in January 2004, and 12 prison guards were sentenced to death. Captain Adam Mohamed, the commanding official charged with ordering the shootings, was granted clemency by Gayoom. Subsequently, the sentence of the prison guards was commuted to 25 years in jail.

In June 2011, the case was re-opened and three of the former prison guards, who were living at large, were sent back to jail.

State Home Minister Mohamed Naeem previously told Minivan News that he regretted sending the convicted men back to prison after a long period without clear legal action.

“If [the former administration] had not freed them from prison, by now they would have served most of their sentence and could have even possibly applied for clemency,” said Naeem.

However, he did say that the action of the former administration had not only violated the rights of the convicted, but also those of the victims.

“When the victims who survived that time see these convicted people roaming around the streets, how do they feel? It is unfair for them,” he said at the time.

An individual who was imprisoned at Maafushi jail at the time of Evan Naseem’s death and the prison shootings spoke to Minivan News about the renewed investigation.

“I think they need to find out who ordered the torture of Evan Naseem–was it the highest ranking officer, or a lower officer? This has been delayed too long now. We have to have proper justice to move ahead,” he said.

The source added that a lot of information surrounding the incident had been censored, and said he wasn’t sure that “the right people” had been sent back to prison.

“I think it is wrong for the one who complied with the order to take the punishment. It should be the one who gave the order,” he said.

Former President Gayoom at the time was also Minister of Defence and National Security.

The former Maafushi prison guards involved in the shootings were recently re-arrested for the 2003 event. The source said several senior prison officials had informed him at the time that the order to shoot on September 20 had come from the top.

The shooting occurred after inmates broke out of their cells “to learn the details of fellow Evan Naseem’s death”, the source said.

The source told Minivan News that he could hear people being tortured from his cell, and that he had also heard these sounds on the night that Naseem died. His own cell was secure at the time of the riot.

“This army man was controlling us, and he said it was nothing. But we knew some things were happening. I knew, because I saw people jumping off the wall from my cell.

“When they opened the door to the block to bring the breakfast things we kept asking the guards what was happening but they would tell us nothing. Finally, we asked the guards to please open the gate so we could see, and at that time we saw a lot of people lined up on the beach in handcuffs. By the evening the army came and took control of things. Then, an inmate said ‘let’s burn this place down!’, but I said, ‘No, let’s work to get free. We are not going to burn the prison.’ I told him not to do anything, but he said ‘Let’s use [force].’ I said, ‘Let’s negotiate.’  So we negotiated.”

Following the shooting, 19 inmates and one officer were reported injured, and three inmates were reported dead. 15 of the 20 persons wounded had been shot above the knee.

An English translation of the initial investigation, provided by the Dhivehi Observer on January 24 2004, described the prison break as “not an emergency situation,” and determined that the use of weapons against the inmates was “neither a proportionate response nor a reasonable means of control.”

The report, which was filed by the former administration’s special commission, further stated that inmates were partially excused for the alleged riot “on account of the fact that they were acting on deep grief and frustration and did not appear to intend further harm [other] than demanding an investigation into Naseem’s death.”

Naseem “died due to grievous hurt caused to him by some personnel of Maafushi Jail Security System,” stated the report. The report further notes that inmates at Maafushi Jail had requested to meet with a security officer from the Department of Corrections several times after learning of Naseem’s death. Captain Adam Mohamed was assigned to this meeting, but chose to ignore it; he was the captain that the inmates confronted with their questions during the outbreak. The investigation report states that the captain “did not offer any reasonable response to those questions.”

CCTV recordings of the prison’s Operations Room and the block in which the initial outbreak took place had not been preserved for the investigation, and no Event Log Book had been used by officials, the report claimed.


Residential Properties Bill accepted by Parliament

The Residential Properties Bill intended to regulate the housing rental industry has been accepted by Parliament.

Independent MP for Kulhudhuffushi-South, Mohamed Nasheed originally presented the bill to the Parliament in November 2009, which aims to protect the rights of both tenants and landlords. It has been in the queue system since.

The bill was widely based upon the Residential Tenancies Act (1987) of New South Wales, Australia, and proposes the creation of a tenancy deposit scheme, with deposits made at the start of a tenancy to be held by the government rather than individual landlords.

There would be a limit on how much the deposit could be and tenants would have the right to appeal if they believe they are not getting a fair rental price.

When he first presented the bill in 2009, Nasheed told Minivan News stricter housing regulations are necessary in a city as overcrowded as Malé, where demand for accommodation dramatically outstrips supply, leaving tenants vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords.

Even then, Nasheed admitted the bill was controversial and said he was unsure it would be passed as it was, but now that it has been accepted by the Majlis, Nasheed said he has “greater hope that a compromise will be reached between those who agree with it and those who don’t.”

“I basically looked at it from a consumer protection point of view,” he said. “So far [housing] has been regulated by ordinary terms of contract.”

Nasheed said he wanted to protect the rights of both the tenant and the landlord, and hopes the bill will help the market by leaving “less room for undue influence.”

The bill was accepted by 45 votes, “seven votes above majority,” Nasheed noted. It will now be sent to a committee before being sent back to Parliament for approval.

“I hope it will all be over in six months,” Nasheed added.

knocking down house
Demolishing a house in Malé

A holistic approach to the housing crisis

Minister for Housing, Transport and Environment, Mohamed Alsam, said the bill “has got rather ridiculous things in it. It’s very foolish to control the market.”

Aslam said the government was trying a more “holistic approach” to the housing crisis in Malé by “diverting demand elsewhere.”

He said the best thing to do was to improve services in other islands and provinces, so people would want to move out of Malé and back to their homes.

“It’s a national development issue,” he said. “Other parts of the country aren’t attractive enough.”

Aslam said that is where the government’s decentralisation plan comes into play. “We have always seen the issue of housing as a broad development issue, not an isolated thing. If we leave Malé as it is, no law will regulate it.”

Although the minister did admit “certain elements of [the bill] are good,” he said “I don’t think I would go with it.”

Housing in Malé

With a growing population of over 100,000, Malé is among the most densely populated cities on the planet, and the housing crisis is only getting worse as more people migrate from other islands and demands grow, allowing rental prices to spike.

Due to the high demand and low supply for housing in Malé, many people who own land choose to rent it out for extra income, either by renting a part of their house or giving the land for the construction of apartment buildings.

A 2008 report by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) found that 68 percent of families in Malé were living in accommodation that “qualifies as slums by UN definitions.”

Additionally, they found survey participants spent 85 percent of their income on rent and utilities in Malé and Vilingili. They also found some landlords were increasing rent “at will” and forcibly evicting tenants if they were unable to meet their ever-increasing demands.

Effects of overcrowded areas

There are many other issues with overpopulation besides money and rental control; health problems, psychological welfare and even sexual abuse have all been directly connected to living in overcrowded areas.

Dr Jorge Mario Luna, World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Maldives, wrote: “Several social problems are also faced within the household including child abuse, psychological impact in growing up in areas of overcrowding, breakdown of many families due to the hardship faced by them stimulating a ripple effect of social disorder for the families, particularly the children caught in the situation.”

Buildings in Malé
Buildings in Malé

Dr Luna added: “It is important to note that the major drivers, or social determinants, of health in urban settings are beyond the health sector, including physical infrastructure, access to social and health services, local governance, and the distribution of income and educational opportunities.”